Making PCI, SOX, HIPAA, and Other Certifications Easier With PAM

Making PCI, SOX, HIPAA, and Other Certifications Easier With PAM

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The monitoring and protection of the powerful accounts within your IT environment is essential for the security of your organization and for meeting key certifications such as PCI, SOX, and HIPAA.

PAM, or Privileged Account Management, is the process of governing these accounts. The aim of PAM is to protect your business and your customers from powerful accounts that, when held in the wrong hands, could be used to do a lot of damage.

Because of the risk levels in involved with these accounts, most certifications require them to be managed actively.

Why Do Privileged Accounts Need Securing?

Privileged accounts typically provide non-restrictive access to the underlying areas of your systems that are not accessible to normal user accounts. This access helps system admins to manage your IT technology, such as the operating system and the different network devices you use.

While the users with these accounts may be trusted individuals, they may also belong to contractors, remote workers, or even be completely automated accounts. To maintain a completely secure system, it is never a good idea to completely trust an account, no matter who it belongs to.

When a hacker or malicious insider has access to one of these privileged accounts there is very little they can’t do, and the damage they can do can potentially destroy a business. This makes these accounts a key target for hackers and an important focus for data security certifications.

Case Study: Fannie Mae

In 2008, a narrowly averted disaster for mortgage company Fannie Mae demonstrated how powerful a privileged account could be in the wrong hands. On Oct 24th Rajendrasinh Makwana, a Unix engineer at Fannie Mae, was fired but allowed to see out the day. Later that day Makwana used his privileged account to set a logic bomb which would have wiped data from Fannie Mae’s 4,000 servers and backup systems.

Fortunately, another engineer found the code, the problem was averted, and Makwana arrested. If the bomb had gone off it is likely the business would have been shut down for at least a week, doing millions of dollars in damage.

How much would it cost your business if all your servers and back-ups were damaged?

Why Do Businesses Need PAM Software?

Many businesses start off managing their privileged accounts using manual processes, but as businesses grow the number of accounts quickly becomes unmanageable. As account numbers grow and complexity increases, IT staff time is increasingly drawn away from important strategic projects and administrative needs dominate.

It is inevitable that without the correct tools businesses will need to spend more and more time managing accounts to ensure they have the appropriate audit trail for certification.

The list of actions your team needs to perform on an ongoing basis is lengthy:

  • Detecting and tracking every privileged user account on your network and keeping records up-to-date as new accounts are created and old ones stopped. Lapses in coverage, such as accounts for legacy software, often end in disaster.
  • Access must be audited to ensure compliance with regulations.
  • Securely documenting passwords, changing them regularly without disrupting other services.
  • Ensure every team member who requires access has the least privileges necessary to perform their role, limiting access as much as possible. For example, certain employees may only need access from on-site and during certain hours of the day.

Keeping track of this information manually is almost impossible for a business of any real size. Writing and maintaining your own scripts for managing this procedure is less time-consuming than a fully-manual approach, but still leaves much to be desired and requires continuous support from your team.

It is highly likely that any business relying on manual processes will not only fail to maintain compliance but will expose their business and customers to significant risk.

For example, despite having been in place for 20 years, many businesses still struggle to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As information systems become increasingly complex, the processes used to manage and enable compliance must grow and change too.

How Does PAM Software Make Meeting Certification Requirements Easier?

A PAM solution helps your IT team define and control the access that users and other systems have to your privileged accounts.

Granular Secure Access

Automatic detection of every privileged user account, coupled with significant security controls, ensure that only fully-authorized and authenticated accounts are given access. By providing granular access control, access can be granted or denied based on a large array of factors, including user group, device type, location, and time. These features significantly reduce the accessibility to key data, even when an account has been compromised.

Full Audit Trail

PAM software provides your business with a full audit trail, a key component in any gaining and keeping key certifications. You’ll know exactly who accessed your system and what they did, giving you an easily-searchable history of every change made by a privileged account.

Cost- and Time-Effective

One of the biggest benefits of PAM software is that it allowed you to maximize your security through one secure central system. This saves money by significantly reducing the employee time required to maintain a high-level of security.

Consistent Security

One of the biggest drawbacks of manual privileged access management is that manual processes are often specific to a few key individuals. If changes in staff occur, these processes can be hard to pick up, creating a gap in the audit trail and a reduction in security that will harm compliance. Having a central PAM system can prevent these oversights and ensure that compliance is maintained at all times.

Onion ID Can Help

Onion ID has been designed to provide real-time visibility into the security of your organization and to enables businesses to be fully-compliant to HIPAA, SOX, PCI, FedRamp, and others.

By managing your security and compliance through one comprehensive solution, access management becomes easy. Your IT team will save time and money that can be spent improving your other services.


Photo by Woodleywonderworks, CC BY 2.0

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